Commentary: How do we investigate and discipline public figures?
Some do very shady things. Some get hit by vicious but unfounded allegations. Obviously we need fair and competent investigations.
Thus we apppoint a special prosecutor for Donald Trump. We reasonably fear that the Department of Justice or the FBI, whose bosses Mr. Trump can fire, will not be completely impartial.
That process yielded Robert Mueller. A Republican. A decorated war veteran. A former FBI Director with such a stellar record for fairness and toughness that knowledgeable people from both sides of the aisle essentially said, “Wow!”
Mueller seems to be working carefully and quietly. Unlike Mr. Trump, he keeps his mouth shut. He hasn't said whether or not the investigation will bear fruit.
Trump acts as if he's scared silly by what Mueller may uncover. Some Republicans who praised the choice of Mueller are now attacking him. Trump decided to fire him (as he fired FBI director James Comey for investigating Trump's Russia connections) but reportedly backed off when his lawyer, Don McGahn, said he'd resign if Trump insisted. Trump fans in Congress concocted from a couple of snide emails by an FBI investigator (immediately fired by Mueller) the idea that the FBI was conspiring to perpetrate a coup. Facts quickly exploded that conspiracy theory.
Whatever's scaring Trump, he hopes to keep it hidden by eliminating Mueller.
Closer to home, Undersheriff Ken Roberts committed sexual harassment (even crimes) against a female subordinate. He entered her office knowing she was alone, closed the door, sat uninvited on her lap, and ground his butt into her. An investigator sustained the charge. Roberts, in the wimpiest testimony imaginable, reportedly said he “couldn't recall” the event but that the lady “would have no reason to lie.” How could you fail to recall whether or not you'd done such a thing?
Roberts's conduct was criminal. In New Mexico, “Battery is the unlawful, intentional touching or application of force to the person of another, when done in a rude, insolent or angry manner.” The felony of “false imprisonment consists of intentionally confining or restraining another person without [her] consent and with knowledge that he has no lawful authority to do so.” As I recall the jury instructions, I think Roberts was guilty of that too.
Sheriff Kiki Vigil, a biased judge at best, merely suspended Roberts for ten days and required Roberts to attend classes that would teach him his conduct was wrong. (Roberts, who's plenty smart, surely knew that already!) Frightened, the victim immediately obtained from court a temporary restraining order against Roberts. (What of the others who've complained?)
Vigil has tried to fire people over far less serious allegations. And sacked the previous undersheriff for no known offenses. Roberts, a disastrous undersheriff, has cost the county or its insurers plenty of money and may cost us more with his misconduct toward female employees. (He already got us into one lawsuit based on his apparent carelessness in dealing with a black employee.)
Vigil and Roberts are a continuing embarrassment to a wonderful county. (As Trump is a continuing embarrassment to a damned fine country!) As deputies flee an already short-handed department, Vigil endangers public safety. His litigiousness and mismanagement endanger our public purse.
Vigil faces two challengers in the Democratic Primary: Eddie Lerma, who served as undersheriff to three sheriffs, including Vigil; and Kim Stewart, an investigator who probably has better credentials than Vigil had for sheriff.